American adobo

Someone reacted sheepishly, ‘At least, napag-usapan.’ I could just shake my head. Shouldn’t we all react just like Uncle Roger?

September 3, 2022

Uncle Roger was so incensed at celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s version of adobo that he accidentally put his foot down from the chair he was sitting on. So was I, although I was lying in bed while I was watching it.

How can adobo be not adobo? It’s a simple dish that is hard to destroy, unless if you get your measurements wrong. But Zakarian, who won the Iron Chef title in 2012, should have gotten it right. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

The errors came one after another so quickly Uncle Roger, who is Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng in real life, hit the pause button on his cooking show review channel on YouTube too many times. Onions — and lots of it, too few garlic cloves, low sodium soy sauce, a sliced habanero pepper, too much water, and even parsley and a lemon slice as garnish. And Zakarian had the temerity to call it “traditional Filipino adobo.” If he said it was his version of it, I would just have laughed at it. What he made, as one netizen correctly commented, was chicken soup.

Another commented he got his recipe wrong because he got Filipino and Mexican adobo all mixed up.

Apparently, Americans have taken it upon themselves to define what Filipino adobo is. And it’s all on the Food Network channel on YouTube.

I love Anne Burrell of Worst Cooks in America, but the onions and the toasted-then-ground peppercorns really threw off her version. And yes, still too much water. (Nevermind the Filipino fried rice they also cooked in the episode using annato seeds, or what we usually call achuete.)

Rachael Ray also got it wrong with the onions and jalapenos, and the scallion garnish in the end. And don’t get me started on her garlic fried rice with coriander seeds.

The only person who sort of got it right was Jeff Tila, who fastidiously trimmed all of the fat off the chicken and used a cornstarch slurry to get his sauce to thicken. The chicken fat would have done it for him. However, he used too much soy sauce — a swimming lot of it — and not enough vinegar — and he had cane vinegar in hand.

And all that searing of chicken in expensive Dutch ovens and Le Creuset cookware. Uncle Roger was right; rather than spend on fancy cookware, they should have just bought a Filipino cookbook, one that was published in the Philippines. They could order it online. Didn’t the Food Network contact someone from the Filipino community in the States to get their recipe right?

Someone reacted sheepishly, “At least, napag-usapan.” I could just shake my head. Shouldn’t we all react just like Uncle Roger? He’s Malaysian, we’re Filipinos.

And there are a whole lot more videos of foreigners cooking adobo and passing it off as traditional on YouTube. They come one after another once you hit the Search button.

Remember the time when we were all upset about the guys at the Department of Tourism coming up with a uniform recipe for adobo to introduce around the world? Maybe they should have done it.


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